GP accused of trying to get drugs for ‘personal use’

GP Dr Thomas Egerton leaving Newtownards Magistrates' Court
GP Dr Thomas Egerton leaving Newtownards Magistrates' Court

A doctor has been ordered to stand trial accused of abusing his position as a GP to obtain massive amounts of painkillers and tranquillisers.

After hearing how 57-year-old Dr Thomas Egerton had “mobility problems” as a result of double leg fractures, district judge Mark Hamill allowed the GP to remain in the public gallery of Newtownards Magistrates’ Court for the preliminary enquiry hearing.

Dr Egerton, from the Station Road in Holywood and who practices in the Priory Clinic in the Co Down town, faces a total of 27 offences allegedly committed on various dates between June 11, 2009, and October 31, 2014, including fraud by abuse of his position, 18 offences of possessing class C drugs, three of having class A drugs and five further counts of breaching various drug regulations.

The GP is alleged to have breached his position as a doctor by “completing and presenting requisitions/prescriptions to obtain controlled drugs for immediate administration to patients or for their use before a normal supply could be obtained, whereas the drugs were obtained for your own personal use”.

It is alleged that he possessed class A morphine-based pain killers, as well as class C painkillers and sedatives such as tramadol, lorazepam, diazepam, midazolam and zopiclone.

It is also alleged Dr Egerton breached drug regulations by failing to keep proper records of prescribed drugs and their respective strengths.

While none of the facts giving rise to the charges were opened in court on Friday, a prosecuting lawyer submitted the legal papers disclosed a case for the doctor to answer – a submission his defence lawyer did not argue against.

Returning the case to Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Hamill released Dr Egerton on his own bail of £500 and ordered him to appear before the higher court for his arraignment on December 2.

The judge asked if there was an application for legal aid but Dr Egerton’s barrister, instructed by Carson McDowell, said he was no applying for the public funds.

Rather than be taken to the cells to wait for the preparation of bail papers, Judge Hamill said given Dr Egerton’s mobility problems, he would allow him to remain in the company of his solicitor until the papers were ready.

Pointing to the door to the cell area, the judge said he had been told of someone complaining “that I allow some people to go out that door and others to go with their solicitors”.

“Whoever complained, it was because of the assessment of flight risk,” said the judge adding “his man has fractured both legs, that’s why I’m giving him this leeway”.